Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Leaders and Legends: Abraham Nemeth

Abraham Nemeth
Inducted 2005
Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field

Graduation photo: Twelve-and a-half-year-old Abe graduated from eighth grade in June 1931

Abraham Nemeth was born in 1918 in New York City and attended regular public school as a totally blind child. He majored in psychology at Brooklyn College and received a master's degree from Columbia University, also in psychology. In spite of his continuing and growing interest in mathematics he was counseled to pursue the field of psychology. While looking for a job as a psychologist, he took evening courses in math and physics at Brooklyn College and later at Columbia University.

His determination to pursue his love of math and science despite the lack of Braille materials in these fields led in 1952 to the creation of what is now known as the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation. This unique and revolutionary idea became the official code in the United States, and later Canada and New Zealand. This was a landmark step in the opportunity for blind students to engage in scientific studies. He also developed MathSpeak which is a standard system of reading mathematical formulas out loud.

Abraham Nemeth College Graduation Photo

In 1955 he joined the faculty of the department of mathematics at the University of Detroit, where he served thirty years. He was known for the innovative way he devised to convey mathematical concepts. During this time he also inaugurated the graduate department in computer sciences. He received a PhD in mathematics from Wayne State University. When asked what it takes to be successful in our field he responded, "to expect from a blind child what you expect from a sighted child."

Ten-year-old 'Abie' Nemeth poses with three-year-old sister Marsha in front of his aunt's house in Brighton Beach. Seven-year-old Aaron sits on the steps.

Dr. Nemeth was a man of vision and action, intellectual brilliance and insightful wit. The Nemeth Code is recognized as an indispensable tool for instruction in mathematics and science. In 1972 and 1976 he and his wife were invited by the Soviet Union to come to Moscow and tell about the Nemeth Code and how a blind person can access the computer screen.

Since retiring from the University of Detroit he has been working on a program which converts a computer with a speech synthesizer into a talking scientific calculator. He also spends his time proofreading parts of the Bible and prayer books in Hebrew.

Abraham Nemeth speaking at the NASA Space Camp, 2000

He was the chairman of the Michigan Commission for the Blind from 1991until 1993. In 1999 he received the Migel Medal, awarded by the American Foundation for the blind. In 2001 he received the Creative Use of Braille Award from the American Printing House for the Blind. The Division of Visual Impairments of the Council for Exceptional Children awarded him the Exemplary Advocate Award.

Abraham Nemeth Abraham Nemeth's Hall of Fame Plaque

Plaque sponsored by National Federation of the Blind, gh LLC, Family and Friends

About the Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is dedicated to preserving, honoring, and promoting the tradition of excellence manifested by the specific individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame and through the history of outstanding services provided to people who are blind or visually impaired.

These significant professional colleagues of the recent and distant past are a fascinating cross-section of heroes and pioneers who not only shaped our rich history, philosophy, knowledge and skills, but also give us insights into current and future challenges. These giants shared their personal lives and showed us strategies to ensure that services for blind persons remain unique and specialized. Enjoy their lives and contributions and reflect upon your own list of heroes.

Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is a project of the entire field of blindness. It is curated by the American Printing House for the Blind, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.

Visit the virtual Hall of Fame for the inspiring stories of many more heroes of the field of blindness.

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